Hot New Game Meat is a Giant Swamp Rat

Brooke Newberry
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The gush of peasantry comfort foods, whole animal usage, and heady under-the-radar meats are proudly surviving on menus around the country.  We’ve been constantly fascinated (and full) for a few years now.  Next in line for gourmet-ifying is nutria, the beaver rat originally hailing from South America.  These furry creatures can be seen through windows of long bus rides along the route from Parma to Bologna, burrowing in the swampy sideline ditches.  Just like the cave-hanging Parma Hams, nutria thrive on damp, cavern-like terrain.  Italians call them “castorino,” meaning “little beaver.”  They’re also found in the United States, particularly in the bayou of Louisiana.  These creatures are effectively wreaking havoc in the creole state by gnawing away at the protective barriers of its precious coastlines.  So much of the vegetation is being ferociously nibbled away that residents fear of what’s to come during August and September’s hurricane season.

Chris Metzler, a documentarian and film producer, is completely captivated by these 20-pound rodents and the potential of devastation they can cause.  He’s filming a documentary about nutria funded by KickStarter, called Rodents of Unusual Size.  Yep.  The project received its funding on May 3rd of this year.  We can’t wait to watch his footage of nutria being served as prime-cut steak down by the bayou.  In fact, there is major encouragement from LA government officials for bayou-dwelling restaurants and chefs in the area to start featuring the little beasties braised up on menus.  The theory: promoting them as a type of game meat will reduce over-population.  Nutria meat can be on the tough side and is best cooked over low, moist heat.  It’s comparable to rabbit or dark turkey meat.  

According to Louisiana state analyses, raw nutria meat has more protein per serving than ground beef. The little dudes are also presumably lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than any other protein.  Louisiana is already known for its treasury of daring, un-pretentious and unusual foods, so we think this just might be the state’s shoreline solution.  Many foods considered “peasantry,” uncivilized, or even gross are now solid parts of our food register.  Think about lobsters – insects crawling at the bottom of the sea? Ew.  Slimy, mucous covered snails? Blech. Nutria – your time has come.

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